Egoism can be a descriptive or a normative position. Psychological egoism, the most famous descriptive position, claims that each person has but one ultimate aim: her own welfare. Normative forms of egoism make claims about what one ought to do, rather than describe what one does do. Ethical egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be morally right that it maximize one's self-interest. Rational egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to (...) be rational that it maximize one's self-interest. (shrink)
Sidgwick gives various tests for highest certainty. When he applies these tests to commonsense morality, he finds nothing of highest certainty. In contrast, when he applies these tests to his own axioms, he finds these axioms to have highest certainty. The axioms culminate in Benevolence: “Each one is morally bound to regard the good of any other individual as much as his own, except in so far as he judges it to be less, when impartially viewed, or less certainly knowable (...) or attainable by him.” The axioms face challenges from two sides.First, one test requires that a claim not be denied by someone of whom one has no more reason to suspect of error than oneself. For Sidgwick, then, the egoist must not deny the axioms. But it would seem that an egoist would reject benevolence. Second, Sidgwick thinks he must show that the commonsense moralist agrees to the axioms. Benevolence seems to say that the only reason for departing from being bound to treat others like oneself is that more good would be produced. But the commonsense moralist will not agree that this is the only reason. In reply to the threat of an egoist's disagreement, this essay argues that many of the axioms should be read as having as their antecedent “from the point of view of the universe.” The essay replies to the objection that this makes these axioms analytic. In reply to the threat of a commonsense moralist's disagreement, this essay argues that each axiom states, in effect, a prima facie duty. The argument against the commonsense moralist concerns not benevolence but whether there are further duties that pass the tests. The essay raises the worry that here Sidgwick is unfair since sometimes he criticizes all-things-considered versions of commonsense duties; such criticisms would count against benevolence as well. (shrink)
Utilitarianism continues to vex its critics even in the absence of generally respected arguments in its favour. I suggest that utilitarianism survives largely because of its welfarism. This explains why it survives without the backing of respected arguments. It survives without such arguments because justifying the value of welfare requires no such argument. Correspondence:c1 email@example.com.
I argue that rationalists need not adopt Kant’s method for determining what one has reason to do, where by “Kant’s method” I mean the view that normative guidance comes only from directives imposed on the agent by the agent’s own will. I focus on Kant’s argument for “imperatives of skill,” one sort of hypothetical imperative. I argue, against Korsgaard, that Kant’s argument is neither better nor significantly different than the sort of argument non-Kantian rationalists offer. I close by arguing that (...) Korsgaard is wrong to think that her question “why should I care about performing the means to my ends?” is a serious worry. (shrink)
This chapter argues that the modern understanding of the appeal of utilitarianism does not fit all of the utilitarians. Focusing on the views of Bentham and Rashdall, it begins by discussing the character of Bentham's utilitarianism and his arguments for utilitarianism, and then considers Rashdall's criticisms of deontologists and hedonistic utilitarians.
T.M. Scanlon writes that deontological constraints on taking lives are to be defended “by considering what principles licensing others to take our lives could be reasonably rejected.” I argue that Scanlon can offer no such defence of deontological constraints.
Non-naturalism has a shady reputation. This reputation is undeserved, at least in the case of one variety of non-naturalism – the variety Sidgwick offers. In section I, I present Sidgwick's view, distinguishing it from views with which it is often lumped. In II and III, I defend Sidgwick against recent objections to non-naturalism from motivation and supervenience. In IV, I briefly consider objections which brought about the downfall of non-naturalism at the middle of the century. In V, I consider the (...) role Sidgwick's arguments for non-naturalism play in Methods I.3. In VI, I contrast Sidgwick's attitude toward analytic metaethics to that of Moore and the non-cognitivists. (shrink)
Sidgwick holds that moral judgments are claims about what it is reasonable to do. He also holds that these judgments about what it is reasonable to do can motivate. He must, then, respond to Hume’s argument that reason cannot motivate. I clarify Sidgwick’s claims, give his argument against Hume, and reply to various Humean objections.
Moore is taken to have followed Sidgwick in his arguments against naturalism and in his consequentialism. I argue that there are differences on both issues. Sidgwick's arguments against naturalism do not rely on a controversial view of analysis, and one of his arguments for consequentialism gives him greater resources against critics of consequentialism such as T. M. Scanlon.
Ross suggests a trilemma:(i) Innocent pleasure is good as an end.(ii) I have a prima facie duty to produce what is good as an end.(iii) I have no prima facie duty to produce innocent pleasure for myself.In The Right and the Good, he denies (iii). In Foundations of Ethics, he denies (i). Neither of these solutions is satisfactory. One ought instead to deny (ii). I close by considering a similar trilemma concerning justice.
In his excellent Sidgwickian Ethics, David Phillips argues that Sidgwick’s argument for utilitarianism from the axioms is less successful than Sidgwick believes. He also argues that Sidgwick’s argument for egoism is more successful than this argument for utilitarianism. I disagree. I close by noting, briefly, a possible solution to an epistemological puzzle in Sidgwick that Phillips raises. I. Utilitarianism Phillips takes the argument for utilitarianism to have two premises: The good of...
This book is the first full-length treatment of rational egoism, and it provides both a selective history of the subject as well as a philosophical analysis of the arguments that have been deployed in its defense.
Hobbes begins the Elements of Law by claiming that "[t]he true and perspicuous explanation of the elements of laws natural and politic... dependeth upon the knowledge of what is human nature." 1 He agrees that morality and politics are "not to be discovered but to be made," but they are to be made as solutions to problems discovered through a detailed study of human nature.2 Among other things, this study reveals that humans are obsessed both with contemplating their own power (...) and having others recognize it. The former desire is the desire for glory: the latter is the desire for honour. Hobbes goes on to show the conflict these desires cause. They ensure scarcity, since their objects are intrinsically scarce, and they contribute to irresolution, and so make it hard to keep covenants. In addition, they determine the form of any solution: the market is not a fully satisfactory solution, and the sovereign must redirect desires for honour and glory into harmless channels. I shall first argue against David Gauthier, who takes Hobbesian men to pursue honour and glory as mere instruments to the satisfaction of their asocial desires. I shall then present a revamped version of what Jean Hampton calls the "passions account" of conflict, defending it from her objections. I shall close by sketching how Hobbes responds to the problems caused by the desire for honour and glory. (shrink)
Hume's moral theory is often taken to be descriptive rather then normative. This is a misinterpretation: Hume justifies moral claims, as he justifies claims about what to believe, by appeal to initially credible cases. This procedure is defensible.
In 1771, Rousseau was asked to write a constitution for Poland. He replied with The Government of Poland. It is his last political work. At one point he describes the sort of Pole he hopes to produce: his �love of the fatherland . . . makes up his entire existence: he has eyes only for the fatherland, lives only for his fatherland; the moment he is alone, he is a mere cipher; the moment he has no fatherland, he is no (...) more; if not dead, he is worse-off than if he were dead�. On the face of it, this looks more like the description of a problem than any solution. I will explain how the mad patriotism of the Government of Poland is indeed a solution. I will treat it as a response to the general modern problem of �life in others� that Rousseau found endemic to big cities such as Paris, and which he has Saint-Preux detail in his letters from Paris to Julie in Book II of La Nouvelle Heloise. I begin with a short account of life in others, follow this with an account of how patriotism solves this problem, and conclude with an attempt to make Rousseau's patriotism less frightening, more necessary, and slightly more possible than it seems at first glance. (shrink)
The position of rational egoism centres upon the thought that the rational thing to do must be to pursue one's own self-interest. Focusing on the work of Hobbes and Sidgwick, this book is an extensive history and evaluation of rational egoism. They are, after the ancients, the foremost exponents of rational egoism. He also considers other figures - Grotius, Samuel Clarke, John Clarke, Butler, Hume, Reid, Kant, Paley and Bentham - and a related position: the instrumental theory of rationality. Robert (...) Shaver's conclusion is that none of the arguments for rational egoism or the instrumental theory are cogent. This is an important book not just for historians of philosophy but for all readers in philosophy or the social sciences interested in theories of morality and rationality. (shrink)
Sidgwick’s arguments for hedonism imply that virtue is not a good. Those arguments seemed to many wholly unpersuasive. The paper analyzes them, focusing also on many changes Sidgwick made on chapter XIV of Book III through the various editions of the Methods. From an analysis of the first sections of this chapter, it emerges that Sidgwick employed two different argumentative schemes, one against the view that virtue is the sole good and the other against the much more diffused claim that (...) virtue is one of the goods. These arguments can be fully understood in the context of Sidgwick’s general claim that only “desiderable conscious life” is good. Sidgwick’s general point is that virtue, insofar as it is valuable as an end, is so because of the feelings or consciousness associated with it. (shrink)